Tort law is an important concept in the legal world. Generally speaking, any claim that is dealt with in a civil court except for contractual disputes falls under the jurisdiction of tort law.

When a wrong-doing is committed against somebody, they can claim against the person that is responsible for the wrong-doing. This is known as tort law and covers a wide array of legal issues of different types. The main function of tort law is to return someone who has had something wrong happen to them to where they were before it happened.

This will normally consist of the awarding of compensation to the person who has had the wrong-doing against them for harm that can be proven.

What is duty of care?

Duty of care is central to any tort law claim. It refers to the role of the accused party to have a responsibility to the care of the other person. If this duty is breached, resulting in some kind of injury or harm, a tort is committed.

In law, a duty of care is established through the use of the Caparo test – initially set down by Caparo vs Dickman. The Caparo test consists of three stages:

1. Reasonable Foreseeability – the court will consider whether a normal person in the defendant’s position would have been able to foresee the risk of the damage or harm occurring.

2. Proximity – the court will then look at the relationship between the two parties. This will normally be relationships such as doctor and patient, employer and employee, or solicitor and client.

3. Justice and Reasonableness – the court will decide whether they believe it to be fair, just, and reasonable to bring the claim.

It is important to note, however, that there can occasionally be cases when a duty of care is not necessarily established through the Caparo test –such as psychiatric injury or pure economic loss, for example.

What is negligence?

In tort law, a situation is termed negligence when the person who should be providing a duty of care fails to do this. Three factors must be proved to establish a case of negligence:

1. That the defendant had a duty of care in the situation

2. That this duty of care was breached by the defendant

3. That the breach of duty of care caused harm or damage

What is personal injury?

A personal injury case is one that involves a claim for compensation when personal injury has occurred. This can cover a range of accidents including those that have happened at work, home, or in a public space.

What is strict liability?

In the world of tort law, strict liability is when a party is found to be liable without the need for finding them to be negligent or with intent. This means that someone could be liable due to the fact that they have put themselves into that situation – for example, if they have become a dangerous animal owner. It is also known as ‘absolute liability’.

What is nuisance?

In tort law, there are two situations that can be classified under nuisance – public and private.

Public nuisance refers to a situation whereby an individual causes unreasonable interference with a group of people’s land or enjoyment of the land.

In a private nuisance case, the individual has caused unreasonable interference with a private individual’s land or enjoyment of their land (as opposed to a group of people).

What does the term ‘Damages’ mean?

In tort law, the term ‘damages’ refers to the money that a Claimant is awarded that is required to return them back to where they were before the tort. This also includes compensation for loss as a result of the wrong-doing.

In tort law, damages can be classified in several different ways, including:

  • General damages – these are awarded for emotional distress, pain, and suffering and loss of amenity.
  • Aggravated damages – these are awarded if the court has decided that the tort was malicious, to compensate for mental distress.
  • Exemplary/punitive damages – these are awarded if the court decides that an example needs to be made of the defendant. This is normally reserved for very serious cases.

What is a civil wrong?

A civil wrong is an umbrella term for several different causes of action under the law. They can include torts, breaches of trust, and breaches of contract, and will ultimately mean that somebody has suffered either loss or some sort of harm.

Liability is created against the person who has committed the wrong when a loss or harm is shown through a breach of duty of care and causation.

What is causation?

In tort law, proof of causation is required to be able to create liability. It is created by asking the question – “if it was not for the defendant’s action, would the harm have occurred?” If the answer to this question is ‘no’ – directly or indirectly, then causation is made.

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Last reviewed on 11/07/23 by Joseph Norton who is a Director and Head of Compensation